By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
SO WHICH PIC WILL WIN? Hell if I know. It will be decided by PR. Oscar voters don’t want to seem out of touch with the public, which would favor The Departed, but they also pride themselves on not being prisoner to convention, which would favor Babel.
The Best Actress category pits Notes on a Scandal’s too-oft-honored Dame Judi Dench against winless Queen Helen Mirren. Even though Dench’s performance is more multilayered, Mirren wins as the object of least envy. This is the first year since 1927 that none of the Best Picture nominees were represented in the Best Actor category. There’s an outside chance that Leo (Blood Diamond) could score if his role in The Departed is factored in, but the Academy deems him too young and too infamous to win an Oscar — yet. So the contest comes down to sentimental favorite Peter O’Toole and shoo-in Forest Whitaker.
Now, for the dark horse. There’s always a “What the fuck” moment when the Oscar nominations come out, and this year’s was the nod to Ryan Gosling for Best Actor in Half Nelson, a minuscule movie shown in only 106 theaters and grossing just $2.7 mil. (That’s about what fellow nominee Will Smith spends on hair product.) Its plot consists of a schoolteacher with a drug habit and a white-man’s-burden complex finding common ground with a bright but at-risk black student. Does it get more treacly than that? (Nothing about this movie shouted “For your consideration.”) Yet Gosling won the nod over Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx, Ken Watanabe and, oh yes, Sacha Baron Cohen (who, by the way, inexplicably scored a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Adapted from what? Apparently, his HBO show.). Turns out ThinkFilm was savvy enough to get that Half Nelson screener out early to voters — the lazy sons of bitches who only screen a couple dozen of the 306 eligible pictures — and then run a smart word-of-mouth campaign about Ryan’s rep as a pretty-boy type more interested in his craft than the covers of US magazine. (Those who’s-he-dating-now features have killed the careers of so many, like Ben Affleck, who should have been nommed for Hollywoodland but wasn’t.) Still, I would not be surprised if Ryan’s father works for the accounting firm that counts the ballots.
For Best Supporting Actress, always the novelty-act category, it’s hard for the Academy to be jealous of four one-hit wonders (a little girl, the two Babel babes that aren’t Cate Blanchett, and an American Idol loser), though they could muster some envy of previous winner Cate Blanchett, who seems to be in everything these days. The voters will want to save Little Miss Abigail Breslin from a Tatum O’Neal–like future of heroin addiction, so it’ll be Jennifer Hudson.
Best Supporting Actor won’t be Eddie Murphy because the town hates him. Not just because he squandered that megadeal he had for eons at Paramount, but also because he crapped on them during it. (This town never forgets that stuff. Two words: Lauren Bacall.) Besides, those Norbit trailers running now will ruin it for him. Mark Wahlberg should get the Oscar for The Departed, but the Academy’s jealous of his upward career trajectory. Alan Arkin has a shot. But the least enviable guy has to be comeback kid (literally) Jackie Earle Haley, not just for his creepy portrayal of a pedophile in Little Children but more for this Bad News Bears child actor’s back story.
With so much Oscar uncertainty, this year’s broadcast may actually reverse the recent trend of declining ratings. Then all the other networks will be jealous of ABC, whose prime time already is enviably strong. And so on, and so on, in the town fueled by the green-eyed monster.